In this century, only one of three presidents has won the most votes cast by citizens.
George W. Bush and Donald Trump became president by focusing on the Electoral College. They used its rules to their benefit.
Such campaigns are fair. The rules are not. A handful of state-by-state electors choose the president. The nationwide vote of citizens is ignored:
- In 2000, voters favored Al Gore, a Democrat, over Bush, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Bush.
- In 2008, voters favored Barack Obama, a Democrat, over John McCain, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Obama by a substantially greater margin than the national voters.
- In 2016, voters favored Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, over Trump, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Trump.
By elevating 538 electors over more than 100 million registered voters, the Electoral College contradicts the opening words of the Constitution, "We the people."
In 2012, he wrote that the Electoral College is "a disaster for a democracy." He called it "a total sham and a travesty."
Three days after his Nov. 8 victory, Trump sat with Lesley Stahl of CBS News for his first postelection interview. She asked if he stood by his condemnation.
"I'm not going to change my mind just because I won," he said.
Trump said he respects the system. He noted that it engages all the states. However, his bottom line: "I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win."
In 1787, the Three-Fifths Compromise skewed apportionment of the Electoral College and the House of Representatives. Enshrined in the Constitution, the compromise counted a slave as three-fifths of a person, despite having no voting right and few others. The result was more electors and representatives for Southern states.
The 12th Amendment changed the arrangement of the first-place candidate winning the presidency and the second-place candidate winning the vice presidency. After its ratification in 1804, presidential and vice presidential candidates ran together on party tickets.
The Electoral College reversed the people's decision twice in the 19th century.
When congressional dissatisfaction over the 1876 election drifted into January, the Compromise of 1877 shifted 20 disputed electoral votes. The votes moved from Samuel J. Tilden, a Democrat, to Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican. Tilden had won the people's vote.
Democrats gave up the 20 electoral votes and Tilden's probable victory in the secretly negotiated compromise. They gained a Republican promise to remove post-Civil War federal troops from the South. In short, Southerners found a way to end Reconstruction and repress blacks.
In 1888, the voters favored Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, over Benjamin Harrison, a Republican. The Electoral College chose Harrison.
Americans elect governors, senators, dogcatchers and other officials on voting ballots throughout the country. Those candidates win or lose on the basis of votes cast by the citizens. The president is the exception.
Congress and the states, led by President Trump, should amend the Constitution to eliminate this aberration, the undemocratic Electoral College.
In honor of a president fond of personalization, call this prospective 28th Amendment "The Trump Amendment."
For the nation's future, Trump would sweep away a sordid history of slavery boosting, red-flag a game of favoring voters in certain states and produce a system of straightforward presidential election.
Votes cast in one state must count the same as votes cast in the 49 others. Any tick on a presidential ballot counted as superior or inferior cheats the national notion of a union.